Policing - complaints handling, investigations and misconduct issues: independent review

First independent review of complaint handling, misconduct and investigations since the creation of new policing structures in 2013. Dame Elish Angiolini reviewed the effectiveness of the new systems for dealing with complaints against the police, how well complaints are investigated and the processes involved.

Annex A - Preliminary report recommendations and progress updates

List of all preliminary report recommendations (1-30) and updates on progress since june 2019

1. Recommendation: Given the importance and sensitivity of such allegations it is recommended that all such allegations of excessive force should continue to be reported immediately by PSD to CAAP‑D for instruction and investigation by the independent Procurator Fiscal or by PIRC on the directions of the Procurator Fiscal of CAAP-D.

(Update: CAAP‑D and PSD agreed to revise the procedures and practice for reporting cases to ensure that allegations were being suitably assessed and categorised by PSD.)

2. Recommendation: Police Scotland should review the service‑wide capability of its line managers to line manage effectively, including the adequacy of training and mechanisms of support for line managers.

(Update: Police Scotland have developed an action plan that includes ensuring all managers are trained and aware of their responsibilities and accountabilities.)

3. Recommendation: Police Scotland should consider the scope for employing more non‑police officer support staff in PSD with appropriate seniority, skills and level of knowledge of complaints handling. This is an option that Police Scotland may wish to ask HMICS to review.

(Update: Not yet progressed.)

4. Recommendation: Police Scotland should scrutinise complaints thoroughly on receipt so as to ensure that grievance matters that would in any other walk of life be treated in an HR context are not artificially elevated and dealt with as conduct matters.

(Update: Cases are now discussed at weekly PSD meetings to prevent matters being artificially elevated to conduct and to ensure any grievance cases are referred to HR.)

5. Recommendation: Frontline resolution of complaints should be subject to close and regular monitoring through regular, meaningful internal and external audits, and monitoring of decision‑making.

(Update: A methodology has been developed for a yearly internal audit of the end‑to‑end complaints process. The National Complaint Handling Development Group is developing arrangements for an annual multi‑agency audit of Police Scotland's complaint handling involving the SPA, Police Scotland and the PIRC.)

6. Recommendation: Police Scotland should adjust its practice in respect of "Early intervention". Officers should be made aware that they are the subject of a complaint against them at the earliest practicable point, provided that such early disclosure would not prejudice any investigation of a complaint.

(Update: A nationally consistent process has been agreed; where an officer is identified through a complaint they are notified through their supervisor before the case is closed in order to ensure any learning requirements or wider issues are addressed.)

7. Recommendation: PIRC should be given appropriate access to the Police Scotland Centurion system for the purposes of contemporaneous audit of complaints and to help facilitate early PIRC awareness of criminal allegations.

(Update: PSD has offered access through PIRC attending at a designated police station. The PIRC and PSD will continue to pursue the possibility of remote access in the longer term.)

8. Recommendation: Police Scotland should simplify and streamline systems to make it as straightforward as possible for members of the public to navigate this rather opaque landscape and as easy as possible for them to access and understand information on how to make a complaint. In particular the online complaints form on the Police Scotland website should be made more prominent.

(Update: Police Scotland has reviewed, improved and tested access to the website to ensure that the online complaint form is simple to access and that sufficient guidance is provided regarding the complaints process. As a result, searching online for how to complain is now easier and quicker. The SPA Complaints web page has also been updated and simplified.)

9. Recommendation: To encourage appropriate use of mediation and grievance procedures Police Scotland should raise awareness and understanding amongst all members of the service of their own internal systems and which matters belong where in order to ensure a proportionate response.

(Update: As part of the national training programme, probationers are given an overview of the role of the PSD with a focus on Standards of Professional Behaviour.)

10. Recommendation: Police Scotland should consider the importance of providing all officers involved in frontline resolution with training in mediation and customer handling.

(Update: Police Scotland are reviewing internal mediation services and developing a bespoke mediation and customer handling training package for Complaints Assessment and Resolution Units and Contact, Command and Control Division.)

11. Recommendation: Police Scotland should accelerate its plans to expand the use of body‑worn video technology.

(Update: Police Scotland has acknowledged the potential benefits associated with the introduction of body‑worn video cameras. Budgetary constraints have prevented any further progress on procurement.)

12. Recommendation: Police Scotland is a young but now established national organisation with a stable leadership team. This is a good opportunity to reflect on the culture of the new service, address any long-standing issues and consider how everyone in the organisation can help to change that culture for the better.

(Update: Police Scotland has now established a team within the Professional Standards function to lead on the development of preventative and awareness-raising strategies to protect, educate and support people in relation to the organisation's values and Code of Ethics.)

13. Recommendation: The Scottish Government should consider the case for amending the legislation to include a provision to deal with vexatious complainers.

(Update: This recommendation is dependent on changes to legislation. In the meantime Police Scotland, the SPA and the PIRC are aligning their unacceptable actions policies for dealing with vexatious or malicious complaints to ensure that they are consistent, robust and efficient.)

14. Recommendation: Subject to the fundamental right to silence or privilege against self‑incrimination of a suspect under Article 6 of Convention Rights, police officers should give every assistance after a serious incident. That assumption of co‑operation should be put beyond doubt in the primary legislation, including in the wording of the constable's declaration.

(Update: This recommendation is dependent on changes to legislation. I further recommend in the Police Scotland chapter of this report that a specific statutory duty to assist be added to the Standards of Professional Behaviour.)

15. Recommendation: Where a serious incident is being investigated by the PIRC, the investigators should also have a power, where it is necessary and proportionate, to compel police officers to attend within a reasonable timescale for interview.

(Update: This recommendation is dependent on changes to legislation. I further recommend in the Police Scotland chapter of this report that constables should have a duty to assist during investigations, inquiries and formal proceedings, participating openly, promptly and professionally in line with the expectations of a police officer when identified as a witness.)

16. Recommendation: Complaints against senior officers should be prioritised and dealt with, by both the PIRC and the SPA, as speedily as is reasonable, because of the destabilising impact a prolonged investigation can have.

(Update: The Commissioner and her senior management team have taken steps to speed up processes within PIRC.)

17. Recommendation: Further training for complaints and conduct officers in SPA should be consolidated and broadened in order to ensure the right skillset and up‑to‑date knowledge of complaint handling best practice in other sectors.

(Update: SPA offer their staff the opportunity to attend Queen Margaret University's course in Complaints and Ombuds Techniques which looks at how organisations can respond effectively to complaints and how they can learn from complaints.)

18. Recommendation: The range of options available to the SPA when a senior police officer is under investigation under the conduct regulations should be clarified and expanded, to provide alternatives to suspension.

(Update: This recommendation is dependent on changes to legislation.)

19. Recommendation: Any process for preliminary assessment of senior officer misconduct should require the relevant authority both to take into account whether the allegation is made anonymously, is specific in time and location, or whether it appears, on the face of the allegation, to be either vexatious or malicious. Scottish Government should consider amending the conduct regulations to reflect this process.

(Update: This recommendation is dependent on changes to legislation. The SPA has consulted the Scottish Chief Police Officers' Staff Association and PIRC on draft amendments to the 'SPA Complaints Handling Procedures' and 'Guidance on the Police Service of Scotland (Senior Officers) (Conduct) Regulations 2013'.)

20. Recommendation: The PIRC should consider the case for creating some measure of regional presence to enhance its capacity to respond immediately to the most serious incidents wherever they occur.

(Update: The Commissioner has confirmed that PIRC has an MoU with Police Scotland which provides that Police Scotland will secure the scene of the incident with the PIRC taking over on arrival. I have also suggested in the PIRC chapter that it may be possible for PIRC to create a regional presence by employing investigators who work from home for most of the working week or for PIRC staff to have access, in the rare instances when it would be required, to a contracted helicopter service or the Police Scotland helicopter in order for them to access remote locations as speedily as possible.)

21. Recommendation: The PIRC should have the support of a new statutory Board of members appointed through the Scottish public appointments process whose role would be to scrutinise the work of the organisation, review the performance of the Commissioner and offer supportive advice and expertise.

(Update: This recommendation is dependent on changes to legislation. In the meantime, the Commissioner has confirmed that she is planning to transform the Audit and Accountability Committee into a more formal Board structure with non‑executive members being appointed through a transparent public appointments process.)

22. Recommendation: The Commissioner, or potentially a Deputy Commissioner, should be vested with a statutory power to make recommendations in addition to the existing powers to direct reconsideration of complaints. The corollary to that is that there should be a statutory duty, subject to a public interest test, on the Chief Constable to comply with recommendations unless there are sound overriding operational or practical reasons for not complying with a PIRC recommendation and an obligation on PSD to report progress back to the PIRC. Those statutory arrangements should be supported by agreement between the PIRC and Police Scotland on how the PIRC will be kept advised of progress.

(Update: This recommendation is dependent on changes to legislation.)

23. Recommendation: The PIRC should consider the case for building into its structure legal support and advice capacity.

(Update: The Commissioner has agreed that the PIRC requires more legal expertise and capacity and that the option of a legally qualified Deputy Commissioner would be of distinct benefit.)

24. Recommendation: Following the retirement of former police officers PIRC policy should be to replace them with non-police officers. The PIRC should also adopt a similar policy to the IOPC's in England and Wales by recruiting non‑police officers when recruiting to the most senior posts.

(Update: In the period since this recommendation was made in June 2019 there has been no requirement to recruit to the most senior PIRC posts.)

25. Recommendation: There should be a management review by an independent expert to ensure that the PIRC has appropriate leadership, skills and culture to carry out its functions in the future, and to examine interactions with other stakeholders and how they can be improved.

(Update: The new Commissioner has made a number of significant changes within the PIRC organisation and has indicated that PIRC may not require to pursue a management review.)

26. Recommendation: There should be the immediate establishment of a senior cross-agency joint Working Group involving the SPA, Police Scotland and the PIRC to develop appropriate and up‑to‑date guidance.

(Update: The Strategic Oversight Group (SOG) evolved from the previous Quad meeting, which brought together senior representatives of Police Scotland, the SPA, the PIRC and COPFS. The National Complaint Handling Development Group reports to the SOG and includes representatives from the PIRC, the Scottish Police Authority and the Professional Standards Department. There has been progress in revising the statutory guidance. Other new guidance will be dependent on the findings of this report.)

27. Recommendation: All the audit arrangements, including regular dip‑sampling, designed to identify poor practice, good practice and emerging trends should be prioritised and co‑ordinated to support the common objective of improving standards and service to the public.

(Update: The National Complaint Handling Development Group is developing arrangements for an annual multi‑agency audit of Police Scotland's complaint handling involving the SPA, Police Scotland and the PIRC.)

28. Recommendation: The Scottish Government should introduce Barred and Advisory lists and should engage with the UK Government to ensure compatibility and learn from their experience.

(Update: This recommendation is dependent on changes to legislation.)

29. Recommendation: The Scottish Government should amend the relevant provisions at the earliest opportunity to put beyond doubt the definition of a "person serving with the police".

(Update: This recommendation is dependent on changes to legislation.)

30. Recommendation: The Scottish Government should consider the case for amending the legislation to put beyond doubt the definition of a member of the public who may make a relevant complaint.

(Update: This recommendation is dependent on changes to legislation.)


Email: ian.kernohan@gov.scot

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